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    #1

    second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Comment on the use of second-person word-forms in the following quotation
    from Shakesperare (Richard III):


    GLOUCESTER Lady, you know no rules of charity,
    Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.
    LADY ANNE Villain, thou know’st no law of God nor man:
    No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity

    Help needed

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Quote Originally Posted by hazeleyedgirl View Post
    Comment on the use of second-person word-forms in the following quotation
    from Shakesperare (Richard III):


    GLOUCESTER Lady, you know no rules of charity,
    Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.
    LADY ANNE Villain, thou know’st no law of God nor man:
    No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity

    Help needed
    When Shakespeare was writing, forms of address were in a state of flux. People alternated fairly randomly between the new 'you [sing.] know' and the old 'thou knowest'. Sometimes, Shakespeare chose one or the other to suit the metre. But the fact that Lady Anne's version is two syllables too suggests that metre is not a factor.

    So what we are left with is one person using 'you' and another using 'thou'. There are two possible explanations I can see:
    • Gloucester represents the 'new' world - I don't know the play, so can't judge whether that 'fits'
    • Lady Anne's 'thou' is a mark of respect, mimicking the system many languages have of a "V/T" system of personal pronouns. Languages that have a "V/T" system - like French, with vous and tu - use the tu form for children, servants, friends and family, and - paradoxically - royalty. I believe Gloucester is royal, in which case she's showing due deference. If he's not, maybe she regards his 'you' as rather too formal, and is using a form of address that implies 'you can treat me as a friend'* (or should that be 'thou can'st...'?)

    In summary - there are lots of possibilities, and I don't really know! But well done for spotting the inconsistency.

    b

    PS * Unlikely, given the context. Maybe he's from a different faction (history isn't my strong point - check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_III_(play) ) and has taken over where she used to have power (hence her 'Villain' - not a bad man then, but a servant). So her use of the familiar 'thou' has dramatic irony; she's using it to 'put him in his place', but the audience recognizes it as a sign that Gloucester will eventually become king.
    Last edited by BobK; 02-Sep-2008 at 17:36. Reason: Added PS


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    #3

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is courting Lady Anne Neville, very recently widowed, her husband having been the Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI [ousted from the throne by Richard's brother, Edward IV].

    Richard's use of "you" is cynically deferential, [a] because he wants to marry her and she loathes him, and [b] because her husband had been heir to the throne, and [c] because she is an heiress in her own right.

    Lady Anne's "thou" firmly puts him down as inferior to her and her position, and to be despised as the brother of the supplanter of the "true" royal family.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    But well done for spotting the inconsistency.
    I can't see any evidence that the poster has even read the passage, let alone spotting any inconsistency, Bob.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I can't see any evidence that the poster has even read the passage, let alone spotting any inconsistency, Bob.
    No, come to think of it, you may be right... Anyway, while I'm talking to myself, here's some more speculation to add to Anglika's explanation. The pronouns "thou"/"thee" etc. are characteristic of the Yorkshire dialect(s); they're still used today in some informal and traditional and non-cosmopolitan contexts. So in using 'you' Richard was social-climbing. Lady Anne, apart from putting him in his place, may have been implying 'Don't give yourself airs, I can see through you, you're just a stupid yokel'.

    b


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    #6

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    More or less, but rather than "stupid yokel", it would be "You are a jumped-up murderer and social climber who ought to know his place".

  4. philadelphia's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    How could this be clearer? I mean to say how could I use thou, thee.. Any website for a learner.

    And indeed, we French keep using thou (tu) or you (vous).


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    #8

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Quote Originally Posted by philadelphia View Post
    How could this be clearer? I mean to say how could I use thou, thee.. Any website for a learner.

    And indeed, we French keep using thou (tu) or you (vous).
    In modern English, unless you are a strict Quaker, you will only find the old singular "thee/thou" in very highly specialised and formal situations.

    "You" is what is used in general speech.


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    #9

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Thanks guys for all your answers :) The exam soon :)


    If you like to debate one more time on my post :) I have the next weird thing for you, the help needed soooo bad.
    here it is:


    Compare the following constructions:

    (a) He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
    In al his lyf unto no manner wight. (Geoffrey Chaucer, late 14th c.)

    (b) We don’t need no education,
    We don’t need no thought control. (Roger Waters, late 20th c.)

    What linguistic phenomenon do they illustrate? What was its status in Middle
    English, and what is it in present-day English?

  5. BobK's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: second-person word-forms in Shakespeare HELP!

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    In modern English, unless you are a strict Quaker, you will only find the old singular "thee/thou" in very highly specialised and formal situations.

    "You" is what is used in general speech.
    And, of course, in 'fossils', like 'holier than thou' [=excessively pious] or 'come all ye' [used in UK folk-clubs to refer to a night when there's no 'special guest' performer - the equivalent of the Am English 'open mike']

    b

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